Members of the CMO Growth Council, a joint venture of the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and Cannes Lions, are shaping their response to COVID-19 around “story-doing” not “storytelling”, as they focus on protecting employees and helping ameliorate the crisis wherever possible.

As a body that features some of the marketing industry’s top talent and focuses on tackling the industry’s biggest problems, it is no surprise the CMO Growth Council has turned its attention to the Coronavirus pandemic.

It has, in fact, set up a dedicated task force of prominent CMOs to lead and share knowledge on how businesses can manage the COVID-19 crisis. This group met online for its first meeting on March 24th. (WARC attended the meeting under the condition that the views of attendees would be anonymised. An overview of the main takeaways from the session is available here.)

For now, based on commentary at the meeting, most CMOs and organisations are looking inward to help outwardly, by protecting their staff and assessing how their operations can assist in tackling the spread of COVID-19.

As Bob Liodice, the ANA CEO’s, told the group at the beginning of the call, “A lot of what I've heard so far is take care of the inside, take care of your companies, as well as take care of the people to the best extent possible. Keep them motivated. Keep them engaged. Obviously, keep them safe.”

“This is not a time to score brownie points,” one attendee added. Instead, many agreed, the focus for brands needs to be on “story-doing” instead of storytelling, in the spirit of simply being of service.

Additionally, the member companies are wrestling with the appropriate role of advertising during a crisis that is unprecedented in the modern world.

Some attendees, for example, said they’d killed off-message marketing, held back on initiatives that would actively promote any COVID-19- focused corporate good works, or refocused budget on public service announcements – all steps indicating that marketing must be looked at through a new lens.

That said, much of the near-term focus is on business basics, such as ensuring supply chains are intact, and bringing a human focus to employee and consumer concerns.

Some executives on the call further suggested that what is now called “social distancing” should be reframed as “physical distancing,” (a repositioning now supported more broadly), because it gets to the need to connect while physically apart.

The ANA urged senior executives in the marketing and media ecosystem to contact Nick Primola, its executive vice president, if they are interested in participating in the CMO Growth Council’s COVID-19 task force going forwards.

In addition to ANA executives Primola, CEO Bob Liodice and vp Meg Wubbenhorst, the members of the ANA’s COVID-19 task force are: Zaid Al-Qassab, CMO, Channel 4; Dean Aragon, CEO, Shell Brands International and global vp, Shell; Norman de Greve, CMO, CVS Health; Mathilde Delhoume, global brand officer, LVMH; Morgan Flatley, US CMO, McDonald's; Rick Gomez, evp/CMO, Target; George Hammer, chief content officer, IBM; Jodi Harris, global vice president, marketing culture and capabilities, Anheuser-Busch InBev; Jeremy Kees, the Richard J. and Barbara Naclerio endowed chair in business, Villanova University; SY Lau, sevp/chairman of group marketing and global branding, Tencent; Alison Lewis, chief growth officer, Kimberly-Clark; Greg Lyons, CMO, PepsiCo; Marcel Marcondes, US CMO, Anheuser-Busch; Rahul Malhorta, head of brand strategy and stewardship, Shell; Fiorenza Plinio, head of creative excellence, Cannes Lions International; Meredith Verdone, CMO, Bank of America; Deborah Wahl, global CMO, General Motors; Hunter Zhang, director, corporate marketing and public relations, Tencent.

Sourced from WARC